A Tonic For What Ails You

A Note To My Readers: A gray day…thunder and rain. No wonder my muscles hurt. OUCH. Hauling out the aspirin. I think of my 2x great grandmother, Deborah Jane Tyler Curry and her granddaughter (my grandmother) Florence L. Curtis Purdy who had rheumatism. My turn.

A Tonic For What Ails You

Deborah took a ‘remedy’ called “Kenyon’s Blood and Nerve Tonic” that was pretty much cannabis. That was no secret as other ‘druggists’ sold tonics with the same ingredients. Some even added chocolate for flavoring! Evidently Ithacans in the nineteenth century swore by J. C Kenyon’s Tonic. The newspapers were full of testimonials that declared their appetite had returned and they felt much better after one bottle. Uh huh.

Kenyon’s ‘agents’ for the Owego firm….were Judson Bryant Todd and Arthur B. Brooks, druggists in Ithaca. Todd also sold oils and paints which were treatments for corns and skin ailments at his mercantile on 6 E. State St in Ithaca. He was a regular CVS..selling cigars, manicure sets, perfumes.

And ‘Hot Weather Colognes’. A display ad in the “Ithaca Daily News’ reads:

“You can get them at TODD’s PHARMACY. Those odors due to perspiration can be covered with colognes until the bath-tub is conquered. You can find a large variety there, and unless your education in such things has been sadly neglected you should have them, and at TODD’S PHARMACY they are legion.”

Brooks sold his own brands – “Jamaica Ginger” and “Brooks Hot Drops” and “Sun Cholera Mixture” at his pharmacy at 30 East State St. He called himself “The King of Tonics” and his own concoction was dubbed “Brook’s Calisaya and Iron Tonic” and advertised as having the nourishing properties of ‘Beef and Wine” at 50 cents a pint. Calisaya…an herbal liqueur. Booze.

Well, look at this way..my straight-laced Methodist 2x great grandmother lived to be almost 90 and evidently bore her suffering cheerfully. Bless that tonic…






Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright March 2017.  All Rights Reserved.

A Dose of Kenyon’s Tonic

A Note To My Readers:  Over the years I have toiled over lengthy posts to share my stories of genealogical research…maybe a family musing or two…but detailed and like I said…lengthy. 

This year I set up a FaceBook page-www.facebook.com/thegenealogistsinkwell-to post random thoughts as I plow through research and develop stories.  I thought it a wiser move to begin to post on my blog instead as it posts automatically to my FaceBook page anyway and I can share these bits of flotsam with my blog readers.

Ithaca New York and Finding Deborah

In the March 8th 1897 Ithaca Daily News my 68 year old great great grandmother, Deborah Jane Tyler Curry recommended Kenyon’s Tonic for rheumatism.  I would have missed this little item if I had narrowed my research to  newspaper social sections for family events or by looking for obituary mentions or for legal notices.

Advertising items like these recommendations that are in old newspapers can give you a timeline for residence, too.

Ithaca Daily News

Deborah had been widowed in 1884 and lived in Montezuma, New York until her early sixties when she moved to Ithaca to live near her married daughters, Kate Curtis and Jennie Sinsabaugh.  In the New York State census of 1892, she was still in her home in Montezuma.  So when did she leave her longtime home?

Piece by piece I built the timeline by reading old newspapers from Auburn and Ithaca.  This was the earliest piece of evidence I found of her residing in Ithaca.  I did find a second item a bit later that showed her moving to Ithaca in November of 1893, but this odd bit of trivia still intrigues me…especially since my career was in marketing and newspapers….and I am her namesake, Deborah Jane.    And by the way…totally without knowing my great great grandmother’s children names, I named my daughters…Jennie and Cate.
Deborah lived to the ripe old age of 89 years old.  Could ‘the tonic’ have been her secret?  And what was in it?  Chances are alcohol was an ingredient…one that a lovely Methodist widow of a Civil War hero could put in her tea and sip delicately with a clear Christian conscience.

And you know,  my aches and pains might just need some of Mr. Todd and Mr. Brooks’ Kenyon’s Tonic now that I think of it…

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved